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Condensed phase electronic energy transfer in chemical and biological systems: From two level systems to higher plants (JONESU16SF)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Jones
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Photosynthesis is the biological process that gives rise to the production of glucose from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. It is responsible for the majority of biomass found on the planet. This important process can be broken down into four individual steps, namely; (1) absorption of a photon in a chromophore and subsequent transfer of its energy to the reaction centre via antenna complexes, (2) charge separation within the reaction centre, (3) proton pumping across the cell membrane following water splitting and (4) fixation of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These processes result in the formation of stable products, principally glucose, that an organism may store for long periods, and use at will for energy generation. It is the first of these processes that we are concerned with, namely that of electronic energy transfer (EET). Although much about the EET process is understood, there is still much to be learnt. In particular how biological organisms may exploit quantum mechanics to optimize transfer efficiency. Understanding this may lead to new design principles for solar energy harvesting technologies.

EET in biological systems is a sophisticated quantum mechanical process that occurs within and between antenna complexes. As a result of the huge number of degrees of freedom in a photosynthetic system, approximate methods must be developed. Consequently, describing the process theoretically requires setting up an open quantum system (OQS) where the quantum mechanical degrees of freedom are treated explicitly whilst the ‘environmental’ degrees of freedom are treated collectively.

As part of our research into biological EET we develop theory, both semi-classical and quantum electrodynamical, as well as the writing of computer codes (in Fortran and Python) for simulating EET in condensed phase systems.

The successful candidate working in this area will develop expertise in quantum dynamical theory and simulations, quantum chemical calculations, scientific programming as well as learning about presenting scientific results through journal publications, conferences and outreach.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at http://www.uea.ac.uk/pgresearch/pgrfees.

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


i) Gillis and Jones, J. Phys. Chem. B, 119 (11), pp 4165–4174 (2015)

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